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NYR Fan 116894

A.J. Puk - SP OAK

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AJ Puk, a big lefty listed at 6'7 225 lbs who BA ranks as their top collegiate draft prospect, has a legitimate claim to be the #1 overall pick this June. Born in '95, out of HS, Puk was drafted by the Tigers in the 35th round back in 2013. Mostly, he dropped because of his commitment to Florida. Tigers took a chance on him late, but Puk stayed with his original plan and enrolled as a Gator.

Some background information on Puk via Minor League Baseball:

Quote

His Freshman season saw him 5-2 with a 3.19 ERA, 9.8 K/9, and 2.6 K/BB over 42.1 innings. He had seven starts mixed in with 13 relief appearances. That was good enough to land him on Baseball America's Freshmen All-American team. He was the top prospect in 2014's Northwoods League according to Perfect Game, where in two starts and 8.2 innings pitched he had a 2.08 ERA and ten strikeouts - although with an ugly eleven walks to match.

Coming into his Sophomore season, he was still a bit of an enigma, with the potential to be a top college arms but still a bit rough around the edges. On April 11th, he sat at a 6-3 record with an ugly 5.87 ERA over 38.1 innings. On April 12th, he and teammate Kirby Snead were arrested for trespassing, as they decided to break into a construction site and climb one of the cranes. He avoided jail time, and community service will keep his record clean.

But it may have been the best thing for him, as he used the incident to re-focus on his baseball career. After the arrest, he went 3-1 with a 1.82 ERA and a 59/16 K/BB ratio over his final 39.2 IP, including a five inning, one run, five strikeout performance in a 1-0 loss to eventual College World Series champions Virginia. This summer, he is pitching on the Team USA Collegiate National Team. To date, he's thrown 4.2 innings, with one earned run and four walks to one strikeout.

And yes, he made some mistakes last year. In April of 2015, Puk and a team mate were charged with trespassing. The charges were later dropped from a 3rd degree felony to a misdemeanor.

As noted above from Minor League Baseball, Puk seemed to really mature after this incident. Via the Des Moines Register:

Quote

The University of Florida baseball star said he's learned from an arrest in April that kept him off the field briefly this season.

"It put a lot of things in perspective (for) what I need to be doing," Puk said. "I'm going to be more focused."

Puk set out to make sure that he didn't waste his next opportunity. He's even stayed after practice at times lately to get some extra throwing in.

"Just working on my mechanics," Puk said. "Make sure I can repeat everything so I can be more consistent throwing strikes."

2080baseball recently published a small scouting report on Puk:

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At 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Puk already has a mature frame with long levers, which he uses effectively to generate a long stride and launch toward the plate. He utilizes a clean, easy motion that includes a loose but long arm action out of a three-quarters slot, showing the ability to repeat his delivery while demonstrating solid body control.

Although Puk’s fastball velocity was erratic throughout the spring and the summer, it generally registers as a plus pitch, and has flashed plus-plus in the mid-90’s with run. His secondary pitches include a low-80’s slider that is a swing-and-miss type offering, and a fringy changeup that he continues to develop.

Puk has the upside of a future frontline starter, on his good days bringing a plus-plus fastball, plus slider, and a fringe-average changeup. He comes SEC battle-tested and has the combination of present talent and upside to rise quickly through a pro organization.

Furthermore, a report from MLB.com:

Quote

Bigger and stronger than he was in high school, Puk has the chance to have three plus pitches. He's capable of touching 96-97 mph with his fastball, and he hit 95 mph during Florida's fall scout day. The heater will sit in the 93-94 mph range, and he can hold his velocity deep into starts. Puk's power breaking ball is a bit of a slurve, more slider than curve, and gives left-handed hitters fits. His changeup is behind his other two offerings, but it should be a third very effective offering in the future.

Puk's biggest stumbling block has been his control and command, something that has kept him from dominating college competition consistently. If he can throw more strikes -- something he did during an impressive turn with Team USA over the summer -- he has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in June.

Entering his junior year at Florida, if the Phillies do indeed decide to go the pitching route with the top pick, Puk will surely be a player who they'll need to take a long, hard look at.

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A ton of scouts were out the Florida game yesterday, and not just to see Puk either:

http://www.csnphilly.com/baseball-philadelphia-phillies/mlb-draft-prospect-aj-puk-draws-crowd-scouts-4-phillies-season-debut-florida-gators?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Puk is one of the team’s considerations. That much became clear when his name started floating around the hallways of Citizens Bank Park late last season. Phillies front office man Pat Gillick, the Hall of Fame executive who loves scouting, made a special trip to Gainesville to watch Puk throw in the fall. He was there again Saturday, on a post-card 75-degree day, to watch Puk make his hotly anticipated season debut.

Three other Phillies scouts, including scouting director Johnny Almaraz, were also among the crowd of 4,682 at McKethan Stadium. You can bet the ranch that Phillies scouts and selected front-office folks will be on hand for every start Puk makes before the draft. Ditto for the other top prospects eligible for this draft, including South Jersey high school lefty Jay Groome, profiled here.

According to Florida athletic officials, more than 70 big-league scouts were on hand for Puk’s start Saturday night against Florida Gulf Coast University. Just as many were in attendance when the Gators opened up Friday night. Logan Shore, another projected first-round pick, was on the mound for that game. Add outfielder Buddy Reed’s name to the mix and the Gators have three projected first-rounders in the June draft — a big reason they are ranked No. 1 in the country.

Puk, who turns 21 in April, probably envisioned a smoother outing for his season debut. He gave up four runs in the fourth inning, but all were unearned. He made a throwing error in the frame and needed 32 pitches to complete the inning. He left trailing by a run, but his mates rallied for an 8-4 win behind 15 hits. The Gators’ No. 8 and 9 hitters, Deacon Liput and Jonathan India, both freshman, combined for six RBIs and another freshman, hard-throwing Brady Singer, got the win. Clearly, these Gators are well-stocked for the future and the present.

Other than the third inning, Puk was very efficient. He struck out the first hitter he faced on three pitches, punctuated by a 96-mph dart. In the second inning, he struck out a FGCU hitter on three pitches — slider, 94-mph fastball and a nice changeup.

“This fall, my big focus was my changeup,” Puk said afterward. “It’s probably my second pitch now.”


All in all, Puk was pleased with the outing in which he walked one and struck out six over four innings.

“I felt all my stuff was good,” he said. “My off-speed stuff came on at the end of the game. I threw all my pitches for strikes. I felt comfortable out there.

“I was just anxious to get out there. It’s been a long offseason. All the work we put in in the offseason, I’m happy to get the first game out of the way.

With his long arms and legs, Puk has been compared to Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale. At 230 pounds, his body type is similar to a young David West, back when West, also a lefty, was a hot-shot prospect with the Mets, years before he joined the Phillies as a big-bodied reliever.

Puk has already had a couple of meetings with Phillies officials and he’s well regarded. Gillick is said to be high on him, but, then again, the Phillies will have the pick of this litter, ahead of Cincinnati, Atlanta, Colorado and Milwaukee.

There are signs that the Phillies would like to take a fast-rising pitcher with the No. 1 pick — if they can get the right guy — so that pitcher can join Aaron Nola and some of the other young pitchers in the rotation in the not-too-distant future.

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Two below average starts for him to open the year. I'm a Florida fan and have followed his career closely. I'd be nervous to take him.

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5.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K today vs Harvard.

Through his first 4 starts, Puk has:

17 innings

14 H

10 R

5 ER

9 BB

18 K

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andrew krause @akrausePG 4h4 hours ago

A.J. Puk works around bloop & error. 93-95 FB t96, 83-85 SL w/ sweep, flashing abv-avg, and worked in few mid-80's CH

andrew krause @akrausePG 3h3 hours ago

This is the best Puk has looked all spring. Delivery seems more compact, better job controlling body. Crisp stuff, throwing more strikes

Kelly Price @thekellyprice 3h3 hours ago

Standing ovation for AJ Puk after he strikes out the side in the seventh.

Absolutely masterful start today vs Missouri. Kicking myself for missing this one. Went up against Missouri and Tanner Houck (projected 1st round talent in 2017) and Puk did not disappoint:

7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K

Puk got the win and threw 107 pitches in the process. Best start of the year for Puk thus far.

Some highlights of the game for those interested: http://www.floridagators.com/watch/?Archive=3997

And we have some post game quotes by both Coach O'Sullivan and Puk himself:

Coach O'Sullivan:

Pitching-wise, that was the best A.J. (Puk)'s pitched since last year. I know everybody's been kind of waiting for that one start, and there it was. It could've been easy to take him out after six, but I told him that it was very important for him to go out there for the seventh. He's one of the best pitchers in the country; you need to go out there and finish the seventh. He showed a lot of grit and a lot of fight tonight. His pace was good, and his stuff was good the entire night.

Puk:

On tonight's performance:

"I felt pretty good today. Last year, I basically threw these guys BP, and I wanted to come out today and throw the ball way better than I did last year against them."

More here: http://www.alligator.org/sports/baseball/article_4e4bf3e8-ee45-11e5-bcc6-670ee4f5a55b.html

Against Missouri last year, A.J. Puk admittedly said that he threw some batting practice pitches against the Tigers, who roughed him up for nine earned runs.

On Saturday night, it was a different story. Puk had his best start of the season as he struck out a season-high 11 batters over seven scoreless innings as No. 1 Florida cruised to a 6-2 win, behind Puk and three solo home runs.

Puk’s teammates have been joking with him about his start last year against the Tigers. He used it as motivation.

“I wanted to come out today and throw the ball way better than I did last year against them,” Puk said. “The guys, you know, they’ve been joking about it for a while. … I just wanted to come out today and compete.”

The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native hasn’t had the best start to his junior season. After struggling with command his first three starts, Puk found his command against Harvard last weekend.

He finally put everything together against the Tigers.

“I’ve been kind of frustrated how my outing have been going throughout the start of the year,” Puk said. “I didn’t change anything up. I just went out there and just try to get ahead, I think that was the biggest part.”

The 6-foot-7 lefty didn’t run into much trouble on the night, and when he did, his defense picked him up. He induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the first inning and then after Missouri got its first two hitters on in the sixth, Puk got three Tigers to fly out.

He ended his night by striking out the side in the seventh, touching 94 mph on his final pitch, the 107th of his outing.

“It was one of those outings like he had the last third of the year last year. It was very reminiscent of that,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Been kind of waiting for that so I couldn’t be more happy for him, more proud. … He pitched with power but he also pitched with precision.”

Edited by NYR Fan 116894

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As a Florida fan, I've watched Puk pretty closely throughout his career.

At this point, the command of his offspeed stuff is ahead of his fastball command. I don't think the lack of fastball command is all that surprising since he's a northern guy without a ton of innings before college. He also was a two-way guy until the middle of last season, so it's not like he has exclusively focused on pitching in his career until recently. Add in a 6-7, lanky frame with a delivery he's still figuring out, it's kind of easy to see how he could have these struggles.

I like him as a pro, but it would definitely scare me as a GM to pick him where he'll go. I've just seen too much up and down in his career to think he's a sure-fire stud.

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^CJones, that last sentence perfectly describes the difference between his last start and his start today. The good was seen last week vs Missouri.

Today vs Kentucky: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

Looks like he gave up a solo HR in the 1st, and then ran into trouble in the 4th and 5th innings. Gave up a 3 run HR in the 4th too. 81 total pitches, 51 were for strikes today for Puk.

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Nick J. Faleris @NickJFaleris 8h8 hours ago

Stuff wasn't bad for Puk today, but ran into control issues in 4th, tough luck HR after 2 walks. Just 6 batters reached base but all scored.

Nick J. Faleris @NickJFaleris 8h8 hours ago

FB easy 93-96 for most of start. Slider and change were both solid. Worked around zone well. Averaged hair over 4P per batter faced.

Nick J. Faleris @NickJFaleris 8h8 hours ago

Puk looked like an easy top ten pick to me, and potential top 5 based on the raw material.

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AJ Puk punches out JB Moss to start things off. FB 95 middle in, SL 85 down and in, FB 97 above the hands for swing and miss.

Hudson Belinsky@hudsonbelinsky 59m

AJ Puk coming out of the game after 11 pitches. Heading into the clubhouse. Apparently some kind of injury concern.

.@LauraMRutledge reports that A.J. Puk left the game experiencing back spasms.

Edited by NYR Fan 116894

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This will be one of the best fantasy player names in history of fantasy of baseball... AJ PUK....... I can already see some fantasy team names.... AJ F*K

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Hudson Belinsky @hudsonbelinsky 5h5 hours ago

AJ Puk sat 96-98 t99 in 1st. CH with arm side run at 88. Sweeping SL at 84-85

Gators Baseball @GatorsBB 3h3 hours ago

New #Gators pitcher will come in for the bottom of the seventh -- LHP Kirby Snead. Puk exits after 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R/ER, 10 K.

Teddy Cahill @tedcahill 3h3 hours ago

TV just showed Puk in the dugout with a bag of ice on the inside of his hand. Before he left the mound, seemed to be flexing his hand.

Edited by NYR Fan 116894

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A.J. put up a nice line in his high-A debut:

4.2 IP, 2H, 0ER, 1BB, 6K (pulled on a pitch count)

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43 IP w/ 66K's on the year... ERA @ 3.95 but 18 BB is concerning. Been better of late FWIW.

 

In unrelated news, his MILB.com pic looks like the guy who tried to bang your underage cousin, and sells dirt weed on the weekends @ high school parties!

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